Episode 10:  Banned

“Take me to her,” Noshee said.

Elden Dena turned to Rorkai. “If you wouldn’t mind, my Warlord.”

Noshee was crumpled at the head of the wicker bed against the wall of the infirmary. News of his first love's death took him by surprise.

Rorkai towered over the bed. His musculature reflected lifelong dedication to the warrior life. “Come. Now.” Rorkai stepped out to the landing and flew up.

Noshee unfurled himself, dropped his legs over the edge of the bed and stood. He bowed to the gracious Elden and left. Rorkai gazed over the landing from the top floor and disappeared.

His neck felt stiff and sore. He shook his wings and bent his knees. Noshee flew up without craning his neck. His taloned feet grasped onto the landing. Inside a dark room Rorkai paced back and forth. Already the spicy smell of rotting flesh felt surreal. For once Noshee was thankful for the strong scent of the herbal medicine. He covered his nose and mouth, and entered.

Haiwee lied naked on a burly wood table. Her wings were bound with twine. Wooden planks had been placed between them to support her head and back. When her body stiffened, the planks were removed, preserving her posture until she was given to the forest floor at sunset. Once the sun set, it was said the doors back home, back where all souls resided opened. Her journey home would be complete once the stiffness of death left.

Her skin looked as if a ceramicist applied a cold blue glaze. The lips he kissed, loved, turned purple. The color seemed to have drained from her hair. But the slashes through her supple throat twisted Noshee’s heart. Tearing his eyes away, he noticed her still swollen leg. Purple patches emanated up her thigh.

“I gave her a shot,” Noshee muttered through his hand.

“You did?” Rorkai said.

Noshee showed Rorkai the purple spot with the syringe insertion on Haiwee’s buttock. Her body was heavy and hard like a statue. He’d never feel her warmth again.

Rorkai rushed to the door, closed it and stomped back.

Noshee raised his arms.

“Calm down,” Rorkai said. “You didn’t kill her.”

“I did not?” Noshee dropped his arms.

“This isn’t right.” Rorkai strolled to the other side of the table. “Did you see a fourth person?”

“Fourth?”

“Someone killed my soldier, attacked you, then killed Haiwee.”

“No. There were only three of us. I’m not even certain what—who the third person was. I was about to enter the catacomb chambers and then I woke up. She was alive!”

“Calm down. Elden Dena summoned the head researcher from your province.”

“Chusee is flying here?”

“She’s here. Ready to ban you from the seven provinces. Seems to agree you’ve butchered everyone. With your lies about my swarm attacking you, the deaths of our researchers, you being the sole survivor and son of a master, and knowing Haiwee revealed your affair to your wife, it made sense.” Rorkai scratched his eyebrow. “Then the shot. Why would you kill someone you tried to heal?”

“My attempt to heal her should prove my innocence. At least for what happened in the catacombs,” Noshee said.

“But we have my dead soldier. His throat was also slashed.”

“Do warriors guard the catacomb chambers?”

“No. He probably saw you and Haiwee sneaking into the catacombs and followed you in. A spider had bit him on the neck. I thought he tried to wrestle the herbal remedy from you, clawed your face, but you prevailed. Then you found the opportunity to exact your revenge on Haiwee, and collapsed from the dozens of bites. You had blood on your hands."

Noshee looked at his hands. He rubbed the linen wrap around his chest. “This saved me from the bites.”

“She probably needed two shots.” Rorkai patted her swollen leg.

Tears lined Noshee’s bottom eyelids. He placed one hand on her forehead and the other over her heart. May you find your way home.

"There must've been a fourth person. What was he doing rummaging in the catacombs?” Rorkai gazed up at Noshee. “What were you doing in there?”

Knocks pounded on the door.

“Chusee’s here. She wants to see Noshee," someone said.

“Crow,” Rorkai said under his breath. “You need to get out before she gets her claws in you.”

“What?”

“The Eldens are allowing the grieving families the duel.”

Choose your poison: Should Noshee escape or allow himself to duel angry familes?

71% of the readers chose to escape.